Members of the Battlefords group that established a teen drop-in centre feel it is already making a difference.
In June 2016, Concern for Youth moved into a new office at the Don Ross Centre, a facility owned by the City of North Battleford. The need for a drop-in centre for teenagers was highlighted in a feasibility study, and found to align with the city’s goals as part of its community safety strategy.
Nicole Fidelak, executive director, explained the new location offers space such as a gym, kitchen, craft room, and outdoor area, giving staff the opportunity to try out new programs. One of the new ideas is a regular sports night, which was set to be launched with a barbecue on Monday, Aug. 22 at 4 p.m. Other plans in the works include a dance program, movie nights, and cooking classes.
“Having the new space, we have some new staff who are just really fantastic at connecting with youth in the city,” Fidelak said. “They’ve been making really great connections and building those relationships with youth. They’ve been really exploding our nutrition program and hanging out at the skate park, and helping out at the fair this past week.”
In July 2015, through traditional outreach, Concern for Youth was in contact with just over 900 young people. In July 2016, following the opening of the new office, the group doubled the youths it saw — more than 2,080. Fidelak said Facebook was a big part of that growth, along with referrals from others who are becoming more familiar with their work.
She explained the sports night will start with basketball and volleyball in the gym, but while weather permits they can also use the adjacent green space for outdoor sports.
“The colder months are coming. At least we’ll have a warm place to be inside and play games,” Fidelak said.
The service is in addition to the youth outreach program familiar to many Battlefords residents, with the white Concern for Youth van that provides snacks and water as well as engagement. The group also helps youths develop job skills and find work. But members felt the need for a facility where young people who had outgrown the Battlefords Boys and Girls Club could find a place where they belonged.
“Our community’s been really, really lucky to have great youth programming for under the age of 13. But there’s really a gap for the ages of 13 to 19. So we’re really not duplicating anything, but we’re trying to connect youth with services that are maybe providing something for youth in that age group,” she said.
The organization has several sources of funding, including the city and town, the Ministry of Social Services, the BATC Community Development Corporation, and the W. Brett Wilson Foundation.
Geoff Smith is battlefordsNOW's News Director, business and agriculture reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or tweet him @smithco.
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